It surprised no one that following a week of turmoil, Circuit Judge Mike Maggio pulled out of the race for the Arkansas Court of Appeals. What does surprise us, however, is why Maggio is still sitting in his current seat.
Maybe it’s not that surprising. In the statement given by Maggio announcing his intention to drop out of the May election, he cites a “lapse in personal judgement,” but quickly followed it up blaming the “politics of personal destruction” for his decision. That’s code for “if they didn’t catch me, you guys would still think I was awesome.”
Let’s sum up how Maggio did get caught. The judge was outed making comments that were highly offensive to homosexuals, women and minorities on an LSU fan message board under the pseudonym “geauxjudge.” Maggio also acknowledged that he revealed information of an adoption proceeding in Faulkner County involving actress Charlize Theron. Rule No. 1 is that all adoptions are to remain confidential and kept from public viewing.
The comments, which may have numbered in the hundreds, were quickly deleted, but not before state blogger Matt Campbell connected the dots and posted his findings. This was quickly followed by the beginning of an investigation by the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission. That, in turn, was followed by Maggio stating no knowledge of an investigation and then a sort-of mea culpa in his most recent statement.
Maggio said, “The comments posted were not acceptable. These comments are not a reflection of who I am.” Here’s the thing, Mike, they are exactly a reflection of who you are. They may not be the complete picture, but this wasn’t a hastily written one-off. These were at least dozens of comments given by someone who is supposed to command the respect of those who placed him in that position.
More than our other elected offices, judges hold places of honor, because they maintain order without theatrics, objectivity in the face of politically charged winds and the ability to do what is in the best interest for all parties involved. When we stand before a judge, in whatever circumstance, we instantly should be respectful, but we should also feel safe. We should know that this person will use the law for good. And we should know that judges will extend their behavior beyond the courtroom.
This isn’t the first time Maggio has breached ethics in his position. He previously took campaign funds and used them for personal income in 2008. But this is a bigger problem because it calls into question how he approaches his job.
The Commission certainly has the power to remove him from the bench following its investigation. There is also the possibility of not allowing him to run for a judgeship again.
But after constantly doing the wrong thing, Maggio should do the right thing and step down now. That could also be a reflection of who he is.